In D&C 30, David Whitmer is chastened for a number of faults. I think it is worth looking at them along with the context because there are some good things to learn from it that will help us today.
1 Behold, I say unto you, David, that you have feared man and have not relied on me for strength as you ought.
2 But your mind has been on the things of the earth more than on the things of me, your Maker, and the ministry whereunto you have been called; and you have not given heed unto my Spirit, and to those who were set over you, but have been persuaded by those whom I have not commanded.
3 Wherefore, you are left to inquire for yourself at my hand, and ponder upon the things which you have received. (D&C 30:1-3)
Just from reading these verses, you’d think that David Whitmer had just not been diligent in his service and got scared away from it by some kind of worldly concerns or by people trying to discourage him. However, the context was a bit different. David Whitmer had been one of the pople who had been led away by Hiram Page and his supposed seerstone and had been one of the people instrumental in trying to persuade others of its authenticity.
In that context, it is very interesting that the Lord says David Whitmer got in that trouble because he feared men and had his mind on earthly things. You’d think his problem was the opposite—fearing God too much and having his mind too much on revelation and it caused him to look for it in the wrong place. What this counter-intuitive diagnosis shows us is that the Lord can really see what the problem is, and that it can be the very opposite of what we would expect. (And if that is true for David Whitmer, it can be true of any of us.)
So in what way had David Whitmer feared man and not relied on the Lord as he ought in the matter of Hiram Page? It sounds like had begun giving credence to Hiram Page because of the growing number of people who were listening to Hiram Page’s supposed revelations. There is an element of peer pressure here. And it is implied that he knew there was something not right about the situation, but he was afraid to depend on the Lord and the truth’s he’d learned previously. He didn’t want to be the one standing alone. The thing is, if he had stood alone against Hiram Page, Heavenly Father would have helped him and he would eventually have been vindicated.
Another thing the Lord said was part of David Whitmer’s problem was that his mind was on the things of the earth more than things of God or his ministry he’d been called to. I think this is saying that he should have been focusing on doing his calling and strengthening his own ties with the Lord rather than looking for the sensational and intriguing.
I think we can identify this problem in ourselves from time to time too. Haven’t we all found ourselves looking for the new and sensational at conference, rather than the truths that are timeless and unchanging? But so often we stray from the thoughts of our individual ministry and thoughts of our God because it requires effort on our part. We see our ministry as a demanding duty and our natural man and woman is inclined to shirk it and look for an easy way, a quick fix, which of course Satan is only too happy to give through false prophets.
The last problem pointed out is more obvious. David Whitmer had not given heed to the Spirit or those in the church set over him as leaders, and instead he’d been persuaded by those not commanded by God. (If they hadn’t been commanded by God, they were commanded by the adversary.) It tells us that at some point David had been warned by spiritual impressions, but he’d ignored them. And he’d not heeded his leaders either. The church had to learn that commandments and revelations are given by God in an orderly fashion, through the prophet, through channels of stewardship, so that we know of their authenticity. It was the same then, and it is the same today. It is a great safeguard to the church. It keeps us from being buffeted back and forth, led to and fro by every wind of doctrine blowing about the world through society.
So, in sum, this tells us that if we are led away by false revelation and false prophets outside the order of the church, it is because:
--we have feared men more than God
--we have not been attentive to things of God and our ministry
--we have not given heed to the Spirit or to those set over us
--we have been persuaded by those not commanded by God
It also tell us that if we encounter those teaching commandments and revelations outside of the order of the church, we can do best if we
--rely on the Lord and stand firm, even though peer pressure
--keep focused on strengthening our ties with God by keeping the simple everyday commandments and doing our callings
--listen to the Spirit and to our leaders’ counsel
--avoid persuasions by those outside the order of the church
It seems appropriate to say a little something about Mormon blogs at this juncture. As a blogger, I am outside the order of the church, so I don’t have authority to give commandments and revelations to anyone but myself. My interpretations of scripture are not binding on anyone.
Why then do I share the things I learn here with everyone? It’s because I hope to be a positive influence on the world, letting my light shine, hopefully bringing glory to Heavenly Father by showing how helpful His words in the scriptures are. But while I hope that, I think the primary beneficiary of this blog is me because of how the preparation and writing process facilitates my own gospel learning.